Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click

Friday, 15 June 2012

MPP's New Stonehenge Book


 Here is the Amazon info for the new book by Mike Parker Pearson.  It's only just out, but already it has attracted one very hostile review.  Being of a mischievous disposition, I can't resist adding it onto the end of this post........
We all have to live with hostile reviews.  If you venture into print, you can expect all sorts of people with all sorts of agendas to come after you.


Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery

Mike Parker Pearson

• Hardcover: 416 pages.  Price £25.00
• Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (7 Jun 2012)
• ISBN-10: 085720730X
• ISBN-13: 978-0857207302
Kindle edition also available
(NB  Only published on 7th June -- but there are 5 used copies already available from Amazon.........)

Book Description

Publication Date: 7 Jun 2012

Our knowledge about Stonehenge has changed dramatically as a result of the Stonehenge Riverside Project (2003-2009), led by Mike Parker Pearson, and included not only Stonehenge itself but also the nearby great henge enclosure of Durrington Walls. This book is about the people who built Stonehenge and its relationship to the surrounding landscape. The book explores the theory that the people of Durrington Walls built both Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, and that the choice of stone for constructing Stonehenge has a significance so far undiscovered, namely, that stone was used for monuments to the dead. Through years of thorough and extensive work at the site, Parker Pearson and his team unearthed evidence of the Neolithic inhabitants and builders which connected the settlement at Durrington Walls with the henge, and contextualised Stonehenge within the larger site complex, linked by the River Avon, as well as in terms of its relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Parker Pearson's book changes the way that we think about Stonehenge; correcting previously erroneous chronology and dating; filling in gaps in our knowledge about its people and how they lived; identifying a previously unknown type of Neolithic building; discovering Bluestonehenge, a circle of 25 blue stones from western Wales; and confirming what started as a hypothesis - that Stonehenge was a place of the dead - through more than 64 cremation burials unearthed there, which span the monument's use during the third millennium BC. In lively and engaging prose, Parker Pearson brings to life the imposing ancient monument that continues to hold a fascination for everyone.

Review by TW Flowers  (who decided to put the knife in pretty quickly, by the look of it.....)

It seems that every day brings a new hypothesis, and every day some other hypothesis gets proved wrong. That is why early archaeologists had the professionalism not to speculate. Sadly those professionals are long gone.
Not so long ago, Professor Wainwright, head of the British Antiquarian Society of London used our televisions in an attempt to brainwash us into believing that Stonehenge was a place of healing similar to Lourdes of France. Wainwrights idea died a death in a matter of a few short months. This latest speculation, trumped up by Professor Pearson is that Stonehenge was a place for the dead.

Wherever did Professor Pearson get this idea from? Did he get it from another professor, one of the members of the Time Team perhaps, or did it come from a learned member of the Open University? Or did he take the kind of vote that archaeologists call `A consensus of opinion'? NO; it seems that the brains of our most educated aren't good enough, because this latest offering comes from as far away as Madagascar and from a modern-day megalith builder of that island called Ramilsonina. Pearson might just as well have gone to the moon.

It wouldn't be so bad were it not for the fact that Pearson and Ramilsonina's hypothesis was outdated a long time ago. And Pearson knows it.
As head of the `Stonehenge Riverside Project' Pearson has every right to produce a book that tells us everything he and his team have discovered, a team which included archaeologists and students from Manchester, Bournemouth, Sheffield, Bristol, Preston, Birmingham and many more.
The result is that this book is so heavily loaded with Pearson's pet life-to-death theory that no newcomer with a passing interest in Stonehenge - and therefore unable to sift fact from fiction - should read it.
The fact is that archaeologists are so embarrassed by a multitude of past mistakes that several of them have taken to lying, and are therefore well past being worthy of trust. Full of distorted facts, this book should never have been written.
As for corruption - don't just take my word for it; take the words of Mick Aston:   "Archaeology in Britain is a shambles from top to bottom... I'm not proud of the Time Team, it hasn't worked. And I'm totally dissatisfied with my time at Bristol University."   (Professor Mick Aston on why I had to leave the Time Team. British Archaeology Magazine, March/April 2012.)

By the way, the 7.5 megalithic yard (measured internally) Seahenge, did have 56 above ground posts to represent the moon, but archaeologists saw to it that by counting the posts from ten, they succeeded in making a miscount of one short at 55.

All in all, Pearson's book is a deliberate attempt to scotch a better, more universal theory of Stonehenge - and there is a better one out there - Pearson attempting to close the door on all fresh thought - and he knows it.


Anonymous said...

this might explain mr Flowers review..

Anonymous said...


"Archaeology in Britain is a shambles from top to bottom... I'm not proud of the Time Team, it hasn't worked. And I'm totally dissatisfied with my time at Bristol University." (Professor Mick Aston on why I had to leave the Time Team. British Archaeology Magazine, March/April 2012.)"

You seem to be in an intellectual minority quoting archaeological 'facts' and theories that are indubitably wrong!


Tony H said...

"If you venture into print, you can expect all sorts of people with all sorts of agendas to come after you".

Tom Flowers certainly falls into the category described above. He is a somewhat notorious visitor to Avebury's Alexander Keiller museum,I'll leave it at that. His very recent exchanges about Stonehenge on Dennis Price's Eternal Idol blog are also worth bearing in mind.

chris johnson said...

I am enjoying the read (downloaded from iBooks). There is quite a lot of info that is new to me.

Geo Cur said...

Sherlock , could you provide some quotes ,from me , as an example .

Tony H said...

In the interests of fairness and balance in any potential debate, here are a few extracted statements about MPP taken from Sheffield University Archaeology Dept's website at:-

Mike is an internationally renowned expert in the archaeology of death and also specialises in the later prehistory of Britain and Northern Europe and the archaeology of Madagascar and the west indian Ocean. He currently directs field projects in the Outer Hebrides, Madagascar and the Stonehenge World Heritage site.

Death and burial; funerary archaeology; Stonehenge and the British Neolithic; Madagascar; society and change in the Indian Ocean.

At Postgraduate level, Funerary Archaeology

chris johnson said...

I am about half-way through and probably have to read the book twice before I digest it fully and make any review.

It seems MPP and his publishers did not go to the expense of employing a professional editor and the book is the poorer for it. A newcomer to the subject is, I suspect, going to find the narrative confusing because it assumes you already know a lot. Someone like myself gets confused because it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction. A proper academic will be frustrated by the amount of opinion (lots), selective use of "facts", and the matey style.

MPP spoon feeds the reader with interesting factlets escaping from various research projects and this alone makes it required reading for someone like me. Still it leaves me frustrated that some of Dr Ixer's work is communicated in this partial way. Hopefully he is now free to publish his findings publicly because I suspect there is a lot more detail I would like to know. The same goes for the work of the other "mates".

Credit to MPP, Brian is mentioned and the glaciation theory discussed and dismissed. Unfortunately MPP seems to have missed the most recent ideas on the subject and so he fails to add anything to this debate.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Chris for your partial review. It will be good to have a full review in due course. I'll happily put it on the blog. You note:
"......the glaciation theory discussed and dismissed."

For those of us who do not have Kindles or the hb copy of the book, can you enlighten us as to the grounds on which the glaciation theory is dismissed?

chris johnson said...

MPP clarified his opinion on glaciation by consulting with Chris Clark in Sheffield. Clark asserts that there is no evidence that ice advanced into sw england at all. MPP prints a map showing the maximum extent of the British-Irish ice sheet 27000 BP (sic) to reinforce the opinion - the map is not attributed to Clark and appears several pages later. On this map the ice does not reach Cardiff, never mind Bristol.

OWT and yourself are cited as modern proponents of glaciation. He claims you think bluestones should be found around Glastonbury, whereas we know your best guess is currently Westbury. If Bluestones at Glastonbury, why not at Stanton Drew, says MPP.

MPP mentions the wide variety of foreign stones of variable quality and the apparent lack of respect given to the chippings. Without giving an explanation for this variability he jumps to the distribution of dolerite axes which he interprets as a reinforcement of the human transport theory, going on to speculate that stonehenge might have been used as a tool factory. After a deep dive into SPACES and healing stones he re-emerges at Carn Goedog where his mate Colin recognized a depression about 5 metres wide which MPP interprets as a strong indicator for a quarry. There are also 15 houses at Carn Goedog which “could” be neolithic and presumably where the miners might have lived. It is also close to Rhos-y-felin so northern prescelli was the place to be.

MPP gives an overland map showing a northern route eastwards, before going on to talk about the easy navigation down the broad valley of the Taf (sic) towards Camarthen and the A40. (The neolithic equivalent of a motorway). This is all very muddled, one reason I need to read the book a second time. Of course the northern route makes it difficult to explain how the Altar stone was collected - Rob apparently states definitively that it did not come from Milford Haven area - and hence I suspect the rapid jump of faith to the direction of Camarthen.

Castell Mawr is mentioned as a possible location for a stone circle that was later moved to Stonehenge - more imaginative jumps requiring more digging. Underlying everything is his conviction that megalithic society in Britain started in Wales and moved West - all that remains is to collect the evidence. I hope this helps - not much serious about glaciers but I am sure you are not surprised. I hope Chris Clark is happy to lend his reputation in this way.

Anonymous said...

the reason no bluestones have been found near Stanton Drew is that archaeologists can not tell the difference between bluestone and sarsen even if they were to fall over one!

Anonymous said...

Yes I too think that "Rob"
'Rob apparently states definitively that it did not come from Milford Haven area'
has on numerous times shown, partially with material supplied by Brian, that the origin for some of the SH Palaeozoic Sst is not from Mill Bay -see Ixer and Turner 2006 or 8 and I think in passing Ixer and Bevins 2010. It is to be a paper of its own as the literature is so wrong and confused with so many misattributions of 'altar stone'
I am sure he is happy with the statement but not quite sure what the ‘apparently’ means
Oh if only we were to have a strong usage of the subjunctive in English.
Milford Haven is dead in the water.

"Rob" has yet to see the book or any of its contents, certainly did not see anything prior to publication.

There are no bluestones attributed to bluestonehenge -real bits of rock rather than sizes of post holes??

GCU In two minds. (welcome back M)

chris johnson said...

Reflecting, I think it cheeky of MPP to publish a map of glacial reach from 27k BP. He himself says the favoured possibility for a suitable glacial event is likely the Anglian or even earlier. And as I think I know, the glaciers continued to expand for thousands of years after 27k BP.

I feel that his picture is misleading rhetoric, deliberately chosen to reinforce his opinion. I am reminded of the frequently advanced view on this blog that the archaeological establishment choose their facts to support their opinions. Disappointing.

By the way I published a short review on Bit premature but I don't see any reason to change my opinion so far. Feel free to agree or comment there.

Robert John Langdon said...

We should welcome MPP new observations on Stonehenge - even if they are somewhat hypothetical. For something new may crop up from the book and change our perspective.

He recognises the importance of the River Avon - but it seems, fails to understand it as a main commercial link and seems to falls back on the tired 'ceremonial' label of archaeologists who lack the empathic comprehension to understand the indigenous Stonehenge people.

He does get it right in stating that it's a monument was built for the dead - but the cremations at Stonehenge are of very different dates to the initial construction - even if you accept EH dates - which I do not.

NB. Chris, if you could let us know how he links the cremations to the building of Stonehenge Phase I (about 500 years difference) that would be interesting

Finally, his glorious Bluehenge must post-date Stonehenge as it lays on the current bank of the River Avon, which is now recognised as being much smaller today than in the past, so the site would have been flooded at the time of Stonehenge's construction.

Therefore, the chances are that the bluestones are ex-Aubrey and not direct from Wales as the abstract suggests.


Tony H said...

Pete, apparently the bods who have been doing geophysics etc at Stanton Drew did have a tame semi-expert to attempt to identify the various rocks thereabouts. I've mentioned him to Brian which I think appeared on a Post here on Stanton Drew last year. John Oswin has been most involved with the geophysics, from the Bath & Camerton Arch. Soc.

Tony H said...

Being of a 'mischievous disposition' (like Brian), I couldn't help noticing [Professor]Chris Clark's C.V. as it appears under Univ. of Sheffield Geography Dept.

It starts very satisfactorily as I'm sure Brian will attest, a Degree in Geography from University of Wales (Aberystwyth). But then, we're told, he took a job as a milkman to finance a trip to the Himalayas!

NOW, I happen to know that our good friend Sting [who lives near the bottom of the Stonehenge Avenue, near "Bluestonehenge" - not in a tent], helped his milkman dad on his milk-round as a boy, [not sure what it financed].But Sting is drawn to New Age beliefs.

Does this mean, with undisputable archaeological logic, we can assume so does Chris Clark?? And hence, we may be gently led away from rather prosaic glaciological explanations, towards misty myths of megalith movements??

Anonymous said...

"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" [Andy Warhol, 1968].

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- I agree that there is no logic to using a glacial limits map from 27,000 BP. As you say, the glaciers were still expanding until about 20,000 years ago -- and in any case even a map with that date on it is highly speculative for the Devensian. You will find my previous discussions on this topic if you type "Chris Clark" into the search box. You may well be right that MPP has chosen this map simply because it happens to suit him best. Dodgy practice, to say the least........

BRIAN JOHN said...

"MPP clarified his opinion on glaciation by consulting with Chris Clark in Sheffield. Clark asserts that there is no evidence that ice advanced into SW England at all." I respect Chris Cklark, although I disagree with him on many issues and on the accuracy of his mapping of ice limits. I cannot believe that Chris will have been stupid enough to say that there is no evidence of glacier ice ever advancing into SW England. That is demonstrably false. MPP must have misunderstood him , or else deliberately misquoted him.

chris johnson said...

Dear M,
It seems I can strike the word "apparently" now you have provided reliable sources. Still your phrasing that some of the SH P Sst is not from Mill Bay leaves me wondering whether some might be, and that which is definitely not might yet be from another bay a few hundred yards away. Now MPP has apparently shifted his attention from the general area of Milford Haven I can only assume that the evidence points elsewhere. The devil is in the detail and amateurs like me need things spelling out.

On the stones at Bluestonehenge MPP is uncharacteristically circumspect. While one might be tempted to conclude that the number of stones from the Aubrey Holes and those from Bluestonehenge might combine to make 81, a convenient number for a later rearrangement of SH - he does not actually say this happened, I think. Nor does he engage in any speculation about the exact nature of the stones, I think. Perhaps a redefinition of the word Bluestone to cover any exotic stone will be needed to save face before his next book is published - or am I being too cynical?

Sorry for calling Dr Ixer "Rob". Inexcusable familiarity. I am infected by MPP's matey style. You may call me Chris.

chris johnson said...

Thanks for confirming my initial impression around the LGM.

On Chris Clark, I suspect MPP had a very casual conversation. I don't think MPP sets out to mislead but he has, for now, made up his mind that there was a earlier megalithic civilization in Pembrokeshire which had a strong influence on Stonehenge. All that remains is to find the evidence. For what it is worth (not much) I think he might be right.

Anonymous said...

MPP's book was:-
" N.B.Only published on June 7th, but there are 5 used books already available on Amaazon"

His book seems to be selling like hot cakes, that is, too hot to handle?

BRIAN JOHN said...


Chris Clark and MPP are both at Sheffield, and have presumably known one another for years. Whether or not MPP sets out to deceive or mislead, he certainly does that in fact -- through making these "definitive" but demonstrably false statements -- just as Prof GM has done on the record. They cannot possibly be so naive as to be blissfully unaware of the evidence in the field, and of the opinions of glaciologists and other geomorphologists.

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson
Yes it 'seems' you can.
The Lower Palaeozoic sst are not Devonian in age (I believe) hence have nothing to do with Milford Haven and especially Mill Bay from whence they have been attributed quite quite erroneously. The lit. is very convoluted and the original errors have been conflated with the Altar Stone so that other than the 'gospel' according to Ixer and Turner nothing must be taken a face value.
But Milford Haven is dead in the water. No SH stone has in my opinion been anywhere near Milford Haven.
Thank you for your act of kindness I am more comfortable with Mr Johnson (I believe a little courtesy both grants and asks greater respect).
The exotic stones from Bluestonehengedo need some thinking about.
However in a blog/chat room? like this in German would we use Sie or Du??-the latter on the principle that all persons of the same rank use Du.
GCU In two minds.

Jon Morris said...

Ordered a copy several days ago. Still hasn't turned up: Maybe they've run out?

chris johnson said...

Sie and Du usage is changing rapidly. It is instructive how a different culture, in this case American, can have a profound and rapid influence on society and its norms without any physical invasion. Something to bear in mind at Stonehenge.

I don’t blog in German so I will check your question with my German friends. I suspect the Du form is normal today.

Thirty years ago Germans would use their full academic titles even with people they had known for years. Recently I had to call a German scientific colleague who I have worked with for 15 months to ask whether he even has a title that I could put in a formal report - things have changed drastically in a short time.

These days we tend towards respecting people for the quality of what they do and say and what they know, rather than their age or rank or qualification. This trend is moving West to East. So Germany is behind Holland and Austria behind Germany. I believe we see a shift at Stonehenge too from an egalitarian society to a hierarchical - consider all those bronze age barrows. No doubt the language changed dramatically too - more puzzles.

When I was at school we were encouraged to call our teachers “Sir”. I suspect this would be considered archaic today, perhaps even sarcastic. I use the “Sie” form rarely in Holland ("U") because it is shifting in meaning away from being a normal term of respect into something more ambiguous and associated with antique cultural norms that the majority do not endorse. It is a bit like the word “geek” which is shifting from the circus to becoming a term of great respect. Being addressed as "U" or "Mr Johnson" starts me wondering how much of a circus freak I seem to be.

Thanks for spelling out Milford Haven. Whatever you choose to call yourself I respect your view sufficiently to take this as “truth” - for now :)

Jon Morris said...

Turned up this morning. Appropriate day for it to arrive!

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson
There is a difference between Dr Ixer and his published work and the gloss given to it by Myris and his avatars.
One is an absolute (correct or not) the other mere speculation/mischief/fun and would probably not be totally approved of by Dr Ixer.
The expectation of initial first name contact or that dreadful use of 'Hi'to begin an email will lead to another dumbed-down Cultural Revolution and I for one am cleaning no lavatories with a silly hat on my head.
GCU.In two minds.

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson
Are you a freek?
Does it really matter?

The famous and most moving Bon festival in Japan has the song.

The dancers are fools,
The watchers are fools
Both are fools alike so
Why not dance?

Lift up that skirt and show a leg?

GCU.In two minds.

chris johnson said...

Robert, I see my answer to your question on cremation dates did not make it through swedish midsummer into the blog. They carbon dated some Atkinson finds and discovered a cremation burial in Aubrey Hole 7 while retrieving the remains Hawley had reburied. Dates point to 2900-3000 BC approximately based on several samples. There is some info on the sheffield university site.

Mike (sorry GCU) keeps an open mind on Boles Barrow bluestones "there is chance that bluestones as well as preselite axes were present on Salisbury plain before 3000 BC". As he gives a date for Boles Barrow of 3800-3400 BC he presumably allows for a LONG time before 3000BC. Mike thinks there is a strong case for Bluestones being deployed in the Aubrey Holes between 2900 and 3000 BC.

By the way GCU, chunks of bluestone at Fargo Plantation pop into the story along with speculation about a missing stone circle in that area - know anything about this?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- I have not knowingly blocked anything here in the wilderness -- but sometimes the broadband signal is so weak that things I think I have published on the site actually fail to make it. Half of the post I sent in the other day actually disappeared......

Patience and understanding will be appreciated±

chris johnson said...

No problem Brian. Enjoy. I love that area in the summer.

Tom Flowers said...

In all fairness to me, I think that you should also publish Chris Johnson's review of Pearson's new book to show how Chris meets me half way. Good on ya Chris.

Tom Flowers

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson
The bluestones of the Fargo plantation are the beginning of the whole trouble-bluestones from the test pits and from the 'shoebox' were the basis for the Ixer and Bevins 2010 paper in the Ferret Club News. All stones are within a metre of where I am, drifting in the aether and two are resting in a pile on my desk.
It is a straightish line from them to the proto-orthostat found at site ?8 extreme northeast at Craig Rhos-y-felin –the rest to quote ‘Hair’ (who must be quoting someone) is silence. It was the Fargo material that first showed the presence of the unusual mineralogy and textures that eventually allowed for metre diameter provenancing.
Dr Ixer’s definition of bluestone would not include preselite (Group XXVII) axes. The essence of a bluestone and I say this once again!!!!!!!!! is that a bluestone is any type of rock that is associated with orthostats from Stonehenge, only an axe made from a Stonehenge orthostat can be called bluestone..
Read I and B 2010 there is also much discussion in the popular arch rags. Re the earlier stone circle-I think also dead in the water but not certain.
GCU In two minds.

BRIAN JOHN said...

As usual, I will disagree with GCU on two matters.
1. I remain to be convinced about the 'metre-diametre provenancing" on the basis that that is not yet proved and cannot be proved without the sampling of a much more extensive and tighter grid of points.
2. The definition of bluestones is unsatisfactory on the basis that it only works if we know the nature of all of the orthostats. We don't. We don't know how many small orthostats there were, and we don't know whether some of them were made of rock types which are missing from the known orthostsat collection. By this definition a single sarsen stone would be counted as a bluestone.

I will continue to define a bluestone as any foreign stone found in the Stonehenge environment, regardless of whether it can be tied to a known Stonehenge orthostat.

Anonymous said...

It should read any non-sarsen SH orthostat stone -the greater, more accurate, definition is in the papers.I tend to dismiss the sarsens as a rule.

Brian when you finally come to see the light a la Dr Ixer et al the colective joy will be even greater. One lost sheep returned to the fold etc etc.
But you must wait for the Rhos-y-felin paper engorged with sampling locations. 'Til then trust me I'm a .....

GCU. In two minds

BRIAN JOHN said...

Fair enough! Till then I will follow the rule which was drummed into me as a student: "Question everything." said...

Hi Brian
'Sticking the Knife in' was my response to Pearson sticking his knife into me first. I was stupid enough to send him my book Stonehengeology in January, you see, and this gave him ample opportunity to finish his book contradicting just about everything in mine.
I will be saying a lot more against Pearson before I am done; especially since I believe that the lifting of Stone 11 is becoming imminent on grounds of safety. So shall I say that it is absolutely essential that the job be entrusted to someone who has first sworn a publicized oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And then still don’t trust em!
Tom Flowers

BRIAN JOHN said...


Being a naive sort of person, I was blissfully unaware of all these political shenanigans. However, I'm always happy to provide a forum -- and if MPP wants to reply to all the rude things said about him, his contributions will be welcome!

Anonymous said...

"Not so long ago, Professor Wainwright, head of the British Antiquarian Society of London" (sic)

Prof Wainwright ceased to be president of "The Society of Antiquities of London" in about 2008/9 after serving the customary term.

When the Society was founded there was no Britain-(well the Act of Union was only four years old).

The devil is in the detail. Sloppy one is sloppy all.
GCU In two minds.

Anonymous said...

Well and truely hoisted!!!!!!!

It is the Society of Antiquaries of London not Antiquities!!

All that ire ruined.

I always think of it as the Society of Antiquarians of London and have to correct myself.
GCU In two minds.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well Rob, as somebody said famously to Tony Curtis at the end of "Some like it Hot" when he protested that he was a man and not a woman -- "nobody's perfect".....